Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (Xbox 360)

Game: Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
American Release: August 31, 2008
Reviewer: Dan

Mercenaries 2 proves that simple works as long as there is a ton of stuff to blow up along the way.

The story is simple. You’re a mercenary that gets paid for a job. You complete said job and your employer backstabs you, doesn’t pay you and shoots you in the butt. (Spawning that extremely catchy commercial) These events essentially make you the laughing stock of Venezuela. Therefore, you go on a revenge rampage taking side jobs along the way.

The first thing you’re presented with is a series cut scenes that are directed well but are of Playstation 2 quality. The jaws don’t seem to be connected to the rest of the face sometimes. They hang loosely while the characters talk, producing a three-second delay. With cinematic achievements like Metal Gear Solid 4, it’s absolutely unforgivable to have cut scenes less than, oh let’s say, Dead Rising’s level.

The voice acting is actually pretty good. It’s especially refreshing considering the games I’ve played in the past couple of months. (Lost Odyssey, Lost Planet, and Metal Gear Solid 2, all with horrible voice acting and dialogue.) If only the voice acting were backed up by a deep story where the characters grow. You start out as a tattooed, badass mercenary who loves to blow things up, and you finished with as same character, but $50 million richer.

Honestly, for this type of game, the story isn’t important. The arsenal and characters are. I only hope the voice actors get hired on elsewhere because they’re pretty good.

Mercenaries produces hundreds of those nerd-bragging battle stories. Classics like “I blew up four city blocks with a Daisy Cutter and RPG” or “I threw a helicopter pilot out of the cockpit and then used his chopper to level his base.”

There are quick time events, which normally I frown upon, but they actually work in this game. Anytime you want to highjack a tank or helicopter, you have to hit a series of buttons. Normally the action sequences are funny… the first three times you see the same one. For instance, on one of the tanks your character runs along the cannon, pops open the hatch and the driver pops up. If you hit the buttons correctly, your character will grab his grenade and wrestle over it, the driver gets the grenade, the mercenary gets the pin, and you look at each other as if briefly asking, “What now?” Then your character shoots the driver in the chest, dropping him and the grenade into the innards of the tank.

The proudest moment of my entire campaign was single-handedly kicking an oil company out of Venezuela. I won’t tell you details, but know that I had to take down 15 important buildings and the main bridge across the river.

It’s hard not to compare Mercenaries 2 at least a little to Grand Theft Auto IV. In a lot of ways, Mercs did things better. The cars are easier to drive, the helicopters don’t explode 90% of the time you try to land them, the factions are a bit more interesting than the mob bosses we’ve seen ten times before and the airstrikes add a lot to the open world formula.

However, GTA IV does many things better. The story more in depth, there’s more variety in vehicles and the world is larger, which, depending on the mission, could be a good or bad thing.

The biggest letdown of Mercenaries is the ending. I won’t spoil what happens, but know that it involves a nuke. On paper, that sounds like a party. In the game, it means a bright flash, smoke and a giant bunker missing a wall. I thought some of the earlier missions were more epic (and harder) than the last one.

For all that is wrong with Mercenaries 2, I have to recommend it. The game is repetitive, but fun. It doesn’t have the missions you don’t really want to do like the pigeons in GTA IV or any escort missions in any game. If you have a buddy that owns the game, it just turns the enjoyment level to 11.

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